Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.

You didn’t joke with Principal Rodriquez – all the teachers at PS 463 knew it. But when Rodriquez asked me about the vandalism that occurred in my classroom, I quipped that she was the culprit. “I will cease treating you with kid gloves,” she told me. “Every mistake will be documented. I do not appreciate your diarrhea of the mouth.” I don't know a lot about writing queries for memoirs, but even so I can't imagine that using dialogue in a query is a good idea. I wanted to cry out, “It was a joke!” But I knew she wouldn't buy it. If Rodriquez had imagined that I was her ally, in the early days when I was her favorite, she had been mistaken. Kind of an odd backtracking in time here that I don't understand -- why is the imagine alliance important enough to mention in a query? I admired her brilliance and commitment, and I was grateful that she hadn't lopped off my head, and impaled it on a mast, as a feast for urban flies. But did I like her? Only the way a tourist hails an awesome totem. Again, I'm not seeing a lot going on here other than good guy / bad boss.

Bad Goddess Boss is a 58,000 word memoir about a predator boss, errant comma who exposed my weaknesses what weakness? how was it exposed?, forced me to face my fears and find my allies what fears, how were they exposed, why did you need allies?, including a budding love interest. Finally, she uncovered my dirty secret: I was teaching for money to support my wife and daughter, not love. Is this wife the same person as the budding love interest? I have no concept of the passage of time occurring here. No wonder that, on my commute, I wrote an allegory casting Rodriquez as Sekhmet, Egyptian goddess of destruction. Could I forgive her for flushing me out, and sending me back to the only job I ever loved: itinerant musician?

Definitely confused - are you querying the allegory, or a memoir about the guy writing the allegory? There are a lot of questions at work here, and while I freely admit I don't know a lot about writing a query for a memoir (or even if a query is the place to start for non-fiction) I do know that all these questions need to be answered in order to gain interest.

I am an award-winning children’s musician and recording artist who has worked as a teacher in the South Bronx, and as a criminal lawyer in California – all in one incarnation! I tour June-September, and could simultaneously promote the book. For now, I'm building community around the concept of Bad Goddess Boss with a blog and website: www.badgoddessboss.com

One word of caution - on your site it says that your memoir is Soon-To-Be-Released, which an agent who finds your site or uses the link you provide might find off-putting. Using that terminology implies that there is a release date scheduled - which means that either you have a traditional contract or that you have decided to self-pub. If neither of these things is true it's potentially misleading and / or confusing for the agent.

1 comment:

italian dreams said...

A query for a memoir should follow basic guidelines, which the writer of this query can quickly find on a google search. Dialogue from the book has no place in the query.

The query should contain the following:

Either do a conventional greeting or a hook. Have the genre and title of book in first paragraph.

The first paragraph (or at least one of the paragraphs) should contain why you are sending your query to that particular agent/publisher.

Next paragraph: Story pitch. Expand on your hook. Reduce your memoir to one paragraph.

Then a paragraph on credentials.

End by naming whether you have a completed manuscript (with word count) and a proposal. And these SHOULD be ready and polished before you query so you can send them right away if requested.

End also with contact information.